Express News Service

MUMBAI: After zeroing in on Charanjit Channi as the first Scheduled Caste Chief Minister of Punjab, the Congress aims to play a strong Dalit card in Maharashtra and Gujarat as well by inducting more and fresh faces from the community.

As part of this well-orchestrated strategy, young SC leader Jignesh Mevani, who is an independent MLA in Gujarat, is likely to join the Congress. Besides, former Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s daughter Praniti Shinde is likely to be appointed chairman of Vittal Mandir Trust or inducted into Uddhav Thackeray cabinet during future expansion.

In Maharashtra, the dominating Congress Maratha leaders are part of Maha Vikas Aghad government. These include Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, PWD Minister Ashok Chavan and Satej Patil.However, to balance the power structure within the Congress, the party appointed OBC leader Nana Patole as its state chief.

“The Congress is looking to expand its base in Vidarbha, which has traditionally been the Dalit and OBC dominating region. Earlier, it was the Congress’ stronghold but the BJP wrenched it from the party. Regaining its ground in 2019, the Congress won a significant number of assembly seats in Vidarbha. It aims to further consolidate its position in the region by winning as many seats as possible, said a senior Congress leader.

Mumbai-based senior political analyst, Mangesh Kadam, said the BJP was known as a party of upper-caste Hindus. However, when it came to fielding candidates, it selected many SC leaders who got elected on reserved seats. “The Congress has taken a symbolic decision by making Channi the CM of Punjab. However, it is quite late in doing this. The BJP has ben ahead in giving more posts to Dalit and OBC leaders,” said Kadam.